FREE MEDIA campaigners have slammed plans by Zanu PF to jam external radio broadcasts into Zimbabwe ahead of elections next year.
Zanu PF accuses foreign-based stations such as the Voice of America’s Studio 7, SW Radio Africa and Radio VOP of being used by hostile governments to push a regime change agenda in Zimbabwe.
The party says it wants to “jam hostile foreign media in areas where state-run radio and television services are not available.”
It has also proposed to apply for radio and television licenses to establish its own exclusively political media outlets.
But the proposal – tabled at the party’s national conference in Gweru last weekend - has been met with fierce criticism from free media and human rights campaigners who accuse Zanu PF of seeking to muzzle alternative voices.
“It’s an intolerable nonsense,” charged Andrew Moyse, director of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe.
“The fortunate part of it is that this is simply a party declaration, it’s not the policy of government, and the government must resist such nonsense. It’s an attempt by Zanu PF to suffocate alternative sources of information,” he told VOA.
“They have the control of the state-owned broadcaster [Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation] which is the messenger of propaganda promoting the party while denigrating the MDC and independent civil society groups.”
Party spokesman Rugare Gumbo agreed they were planning to silence the radio stations but pointed out that they may not have the jamming technologies.
The three stations broadcasting news into Zimbabwe from elsewhere are popular with many locals who view ZBC as rabidly biased against the MDC and gravitating towards Zanu PF.
While it views them with suspicion, Zanu PF politicians are very popular on these outlets especially the Washington-based Studio 7, where they are frequently featured alongside MDC officials to balance the content.
Media reforms remain a mirage in Zimbabwe with the Zanu PF side of the unity government refusing to fully liberalize the airwaves.